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Tafsir Surah al-Baqarah, verses 8-16: The Hypocrites

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The following is from the English translation of a section of the abridged tafsir based on the book ‘tayseer ila usul it-tafsir' by Shaykh Ata bin Khalil Abu Rishta.

 

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُمْ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

8. And of mankind, there are some who say: "We believe in Allah and the Last Day" while in fact they believe not.

يُخَادِعُونَ اللَّهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلَّا أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ

9. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive not!

فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ فَزَادَهُمُ اللَّهُ مَرَضًا ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْذِبُونَ

10. In their hearts is a disease and Allah has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

11. And when it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth," they say: "We are only peacemakers."

أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَٰكِنْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ

12. Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا كَمَا آمَنَ النَّاسُ قَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ كَمَا آمَنَ السُّفَهَاءُ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ السُّفَهَاءُ وَلَٰكِنْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

13. And when it is said to them: "Believe as the people have believed," they say: "Shall we believe as the fools have believed?" Verily, they are the fools, but they know not.

وَإِذَا لَقُوا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قَالُوا آمَنَّا وَإِذَا خَلَوْا إِلَىٰ شَيَاطِينِهِمْ قَالُوا إِنَّا مَعَكُمْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُسْتَهْزِئُونَ

14. And when they meet those who believe, they say: "We believe," but when they are alone with their shayatin, they say: "Truly, we are with you; verily, we were only mockers."

اللَّهُ يَسْتَهْزِئُ بِهِمْ وَيَمُدُّهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ

15. Allah mocks at them and gives them increase in their wrong-doings to wander blindly.

أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الضَّلَالَةَ بِالْهُدَىٰ فَمَا رَبِحَتْ تِجَارَتُهُمْ وَمَا كَانُوا مُهْتَدِينَ

16. These are they who have purchased error for guidance, so their commerce was profitless. And they were not guided.

 

After Allah taught us at the beginning of the surah the situation of the believers, He then explained the situation of the disbelievers and in these verses Allah سبحانه وتعالى mentioned the situation of the hypocrites.

The hypocrites pretend to have iman and hide kufr, while trying to deceive Allah and the believers, yet they only deceive themselves, as their beliefs in their hearts are sick, filled with doubt and uncertainty. They claim to be righteous, yet in reality they are corrupt. They claim to have iman, but in reality they are mocking. Allah سبحانه وتعالى teaches us that He mocks them, and that their trade is in loss and they are in clearly misguided.

The following issues become apparent in these verses:

1. Verse 9

يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم

"They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves"

المُخَادِعُة is from (the pattern) المفَاعلُة in the language of the Arabs. It happens between two sides, each trying to deceive each other. What does this mean that Allah سبحانه وتعالى and the believers are on one side and the hypocrites on the other?

The origin of الخَدع deception (with a fatHa or a kasra on the khaa) is making something hidden and unclear. This is possible between the believers and the hypocrites, so the hypocrite behaves openly according to Islam while hiding the kufr from the believers. Also, it is possible that the believers hide certain actions from the disbelievers and hypocrites, so they keep secrets from them to mislead them in a matter, as happens in war, for example: "الحرب خِدعة". But, the question is concerning the hypocrites' attempt at deceiving Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and here we must stop. By looking into the issue it becomes clear that Allah's deception of the hypocrites is Allah's winning them over from ways that they do not know.

وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

"Those who reject Our ayaat, We shall gradually seize them with punishment in ways they perceive not." [al-a'raaf, 7:182]

For them their deception is due to abundant wealth, health and slackness which they think are good for them, while in reality they are bad for them and they lead to jahannam. This came in the verse:

وَلَا يَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّمَا نُمْلِي لَهُمْ خَيْرٌ لِأَنْفُسِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا نُمْلِي لَهُمْ لِيَزْدَادُوا إِثْمًا ۚ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُهِينٌ

"And let not the disbelievers think that Our postponing of their punishment is good for them. We postpone the punishment only so that they may increase in sinfulness. And for them is a disgracing torment." [al-Imran, 3:178]

So, that is Allah's deception of the hypocrites, as in the verse

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ وَهُوَ خَادِعُهُمْ

"Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but it is He Who deceives them." [an-Nisaa', 4:142]

As for the hypocrites' attempt at deception of Allah سبحانه وتعالى, nothing is hidden from Allah so the issue here needs deeper research. With precision it is clear that Allah سبحانه وتعالى did not say يُخَدَعُونَ اللّهَ "they deceive Allah" and those who believe, but He said:

يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم

"They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves"

المُخَادِعُة is from مفَاعلُة which does not mean the realization of deception, rather the happening of the deception only. It is said: (Zaid fought Amr) so here only fighting has taken place, but it does not mean that Zayd killed Amr, rather he could kill him or he could be killed himself without killing his opponent. It is the same in this verse. The hypocrites يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ attempt to deceive Allah i.e. they try with their claims to hide something from Allah, but in the end they deceive themselves, as Allah سبحانه وتعالى knows what they hide and what they declare openly. They are not able to hide anything from Him سبحانه وتعالى, so they will be punished with the punishment they deserve, and their deception is realized against themselves.

Here we bring attention to a point وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم "while they only deceive themselves" came in the verse after two matters: يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ and يُخَادِعُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا

As for the hypocrites inability to deceive Allah سبحانه وتعالى and that they deceive themselves, that is a definite fact. Therefore وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم "while they only deceive themselves" coming after يُخَادِعُونَ اللّهَ "they deceive Allah" is clear in meaning. However, how do we understand: وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم "while they only deceive themselves" coming after يُخَادِعُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا, knowing that it is possible that they succeed in deceiving the believers? This at face value is a difference between منطوق الخبر "the literal information" coming from Allah:

وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم

"while they only deceive themselves"

The answer is that in the language of the Arabs there is an indicated meaning of words, called دلالة الاقتضاء "the necessitated meaning". It means the information brought in the literal words is understood as a style of request if it is required to ensure the truthfulness of the one speaking. It is like that in this verse.

The information brought in the verse وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاَّ أَنفُسَهُم "while they only deceive themselves" coming after the hypocrites attempt to deceive the believers, is in meaning a request, i.e. "O believers, do not allow the hypocrites to actually deceive you. Instead, be at a level of awareness and understanding such that you repel their deception back onto themselves". دلالة الاقتضاء to ensure the truthfulness of the one speaking is well known in usul.

 

2. Verse 10

فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ فَزَادَهُمُ اللّهُ مَرَضاً

"In their hearts is a disease and Allah has increased their disease"

The sickness in the hearts of the hypocrites is a disease in their aqeedah although the word aqeedah is not mentioned. It is not a sickness of the body, but of the creed: deviation, doubt, uncertainty and misguidance. They increase in sickness every time Allah obliges them to perform a fard, or He explains a limit they must stick to, or Allah angers them by exposing their reality. They are forced to perform the new fard, or go out for jihad, or have a limit applied upon them, so that is the increase in their sickness, as Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:

وَإِذَا مَا أُنْزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَقُولُ أَيُّكُمْ زَادَتْهُ هَٰذِهِ إِيمَانًا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَزَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَهُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ
وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ فَزَادَتْهُمْ رِجْسًا إِلَىٰ رِجْسِهِمْ وَمَاتُوا وَهُمْ كَافِرُونَ

"And whenever there comes down a surah, some of them say: "Which of you has had his iman increased by it?" As for those who believe, it has increased their iman, and they rejoice. But as for those in whose hearts is a disease, it will add suspicion and doubt to their suspicion, disbelief and doubt, and they die while they are disbelievers." [at-tawba:124-125]

 

3. Allah commented upon the hypocrites claims of righteousness (verses 12-13) with:

أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَـكِن لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ

"They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not"

and upon their claims of iman:

أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ السُّفَهَاء وَلَـكِن لاَّ يَعْلَمُونَ

"Verily, they are the fools, but they know not"

Allah سبحانه وتعالى mentioned here لاَّ يَعْلَمُونَ "they know not" and before that لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ "they perceive not", because he mentioned the foolishness, which is ignorance, so mentioning knowledge with it was more applicable to it, and because iman requires looking and proving, i.e. knowledge, so لاَّ يَعْلَمُونَ "they know not" was suitable for this situation. As for corruption in the earth, it is a matter which is built upon the senses, i.e. the perception and feelings, and it stands out in it, therefore لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ "they perceive not" was suitable for it.

 

4. Verses 15 & 16

اللَّهُ يَسْتَهْزِئُ بِهِمْ وَيَمُدُّهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ

15. "Allah mocks at them and gives them increase in their wrong-doings to wander blindly."

أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الضَّلَالَةَ بِالْهُدَىٰ فَمَا رَبِحَتْ تِجَارَتُهُمْ وَمَا كَانُوا مُهْتَدِينَ

16. "These are they who have purchased error for guidance, so their commerce was profitless. And they were not guided."

They are punished for their mocking, so the penalty of mocking was called mocking, such as in Allah سبحانه وتعالى saying:

وَجَزَاء سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا

"The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof" [ash-shura, 42:40]

and His سبحانه وتعالى  saying:

فَمَنِ اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُواْ عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ

"Then whoever transgresses the prohibition against you, you transgress likewise against him" [al-Baqarah, 2:194]

So, the penalty of an evil was called an evil, and the penalty of transgression was called a transgression, even though the penalty is in reality not evil or transgression. This is a metaphorical usage according to the language of the Arabs. Allah starting His words with يَسْتَهْزِىءُ بِهِمْ "He mocks at them" without joining the two sentences with "and", is the height of power. He is the one who mocks them with the most penetrating mocking. When Allah's making an example of them came to them time after time, it was said: اللّهُ يَسْتَهْزِىءُ بِهِمْ "Allah mocks at them" for continuousness, and He سبحانه وتعالى did not say (اللّهُ مَسْتَهْزِىءُ "Allah is a mocker") as they had said:

إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُسْتَهْزِؤُونَ "we were only mockers". This was so the making an example of them would be more severe and continuous. It was followed with giving increasing them in their wrong-doings, so they wander blindly in their misguidance, i.e. they increase in their kufr and misguidance and hesitate confused unable to find a way out.

Then Allah سبحانه وتعالى explained that the hypocrites bought misguidance in exchange for guidance, so they lost the dunya with their losing trade, and they lost the next life with their losing of the guidance, and that is the clear loss.

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Rashid said:

The house of Saud and their corrupt practices comes to mind after reading these verses
 
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April 03, 2011
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